Jordan Forsythe opened Forsythe Immigration Law in 2009. Seven years later, her desire to do pro bono work remains strong as she’s seen a lot of changes for immigrant communities in Charlotte and abroad.
How did you get into immigration law?
“I found myself as a single mom with two kids. My roommate was from Venezuela. We shared expenses and the goal was that her daughter could come join us and we could share childcare duties to make it together. I worked in law firms during the day and worked in the service industry at night to make bills meet. It took her several years to get her daughter, and it was through that process—watching her separated from her daughter, even though she was here on a work visa—that inspired me to go to law school and become an immigration attorney.
I became a lawyer in 2008, moved to Charlotte after going to law school in Texas. I was already a mother of two with a life behind me and ready to start a new journey.”
How did you start volunteering with LSSP?
“I had done battered immigrant cases with Legal Aid of North Carolina. I started working with LSSP through the Immigrant Justice Project. It was really exciting to be part of that starting. It was a collaboration of all the lawyers that were actively doing immigration. I was just one little piece in that. It was fun. It was wonderful, and to see what that’s become now, it’s pretty cool.”
Why do pro bono work?
“My first pro bono cases started before I had this practice, as soon as I had my license. I went into immigration law to help people and I recognize that it’s a business, but that’s why I went into it. There’s a seemingly unlimited need for people that need low-cost or free legal services compared to people that can afford them.”
“I feel like (doing pro bono is) our ethical responsibility as human beings and as lawyers. I think no matter what you do for a living, you should find a way to donate your talents to the world. This is what I know how to do and it brings me great joy.”
What has changed for immigration law in Charlotte during your time practicing here?
“I know a lot of local attorneys have dipped their toes into immigration due to pro bono, which I think is great, but the need still isn’t met. Most people don’t have a lawyer.
The transition is seeing the new (immigration) court open up and how the private bar and the non-profits like LSSP team together to address that need. That to me is absolutely the most amazing thing that’s happened.”
Is there a particular case you’ve had that speaks to why you went into immigration law?
“I’m very humbled by the work I do, and I recognize that it can change the course of the world. When someone lives in an area, they impact a community and they can change that community … Something that was really impactful to me was being able to help a client that started out being someone I represented when I was a law student in a clinical program and I still to this day have a relationship with that person.
That’s been really impactful – to see cases evolve. A client could start out with a deportation order and you’re able to get them their residency. Those cases, to me, are extremely rewarding. They’re very challenging. They’re very complicated legally. And the people who are in those situations are in a very desperate situation, and being able to provide them with the opportunity to get their residency or to eventually become a citizen, it’s unbelievable. All of my clients are special. It’s really hard to pick just one.”
What would you say to local attorneys considering a pro bono immigration case?
“I think that we need to recruit more people who want to do immigration law to begin with. When I first started, I didn’t speak another language. I was working really hard to support my kids and go to school. Now I do speak Spanish. It’s very possible to work effectively through interpreters.
I think probably the scariest thing is that it’s immigration, and it’s an extremely complicated area of the law, but I think that the cases that are selected to pair up with these volunteer attorneys are mostly specific benefits. LSSP has training. There are a lot of resources. Immigration attorneys are incredible mentors and incredible resources. Don’t be scared! You have good resources and it’ll make you feel good.”